This is the story of my life, the story of Juanito Furagganan’s better angel, the story of Juanito Ponce’s Super-ego, the story of yours truly, Juan Ponce Enrile’s conscience.
I feel the urge to narrate my life experience because Johnny left me out of his memoir. Mine is a story of bitter hurt, rejection and abandonment. True, the man has considerable character, but I’m ashamed to admit that I failed to make any contribution to it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the means to hire high-priced journalist to edit this memoir; I only have this two-bit columnist who has nothing better to do. You can’t blame me for being penniless. Throughout my life I’ve been largely out of work, although I’ve been more than eager to do my duty.
My beginnings were promising enough. Johnny was born illegitimate and poor and abandoned by his father. He had to scrape by to finish school. Rich classmates bullied and ostracized him. The seeds of empathy for the poor and the downtrodden were strewn all around the young Juan. So you’d think I had a great career in moral navigation ahead of me. Well, lah-di-dah.
As soon as he could he told me “Hasta la vista, baby” to embark on a lifelong career in traditional politics. I was abandoned, like an unwanted child, and I wouldn’t have a tearful reunion with him even later in his life. Using his formidable intelligence and street smarts, Johnny was soon horse trading with his former tormentors in the upper crust. In retrospect, I would’ve just held him back.
One of this career highlights, as everyone knows, was finding common cause with that dictator who robbed from the rich to give to his wife, who then robbed everyone else. I tried pricking myself, but Johnny was completely indifferent. He passionately crafted his obra maestra legalizing the conjugal republic—“1081.” No, it’s not a history book on Viking plunder, but given what transpired, I can understand your confusion.
All of Johnny’s wealth was well gotten, masterfully acquired. I can’t tell you where the bodies are buried, so to speak—he never consulted me, and I don’t have the coconut to figure out how he did it. I tended to see the forest for the trees, while he only saw the trees, especially in Samar. And don’t ask me about the crony dealings of his former ACCRA law firm; let’s just say, “Some are Smarter Than Others.” As for controlling Junior and his juvenile delinquent persuasion, don’t get me started.
This is not to say that Johnny didn’t seem to hear my stifled pleadings once in a while. He sometimes accommodated families of political prisoners to make it a little easier on captured dissidents after their torture. But of course this allowed him to play good cop to the dictator’s bad cop, the velvet glove over the mailed fist. But if that’s the trade-off for rare touches of humanity, well then it’s my bad, I take full responsibility.
I can’t claim credit, however, for Johnny’s risky decision to break away and turn against his sickly boss. I still feel the hurt that I felt for being taken out of the equation. The ship of state was sinking fast, and Johnny, who had profited greatly from being on the bridge with the captain, is nothing if not the consummate survivor. There also was Ver gaining on him. No not “enlightenment,” silly, but Fabian, his nemesis. Once again I was reduced to being a useless bystander as Johnny calculated his next moves during those fateful hours.
However, at one time right after The Downfall, during an unguarded moment of heroic exuberance, Johnny let me out for some sunshine and fresh air: He openly confessed to faking his own ambush, an incident that had been used to justify the imposition of Martial Law. Yes! I cheered, touched by the gesture. But he quickly caught himself—and me. I was immediately hustled into solitary confinement in a dark, tiny brain cell, never to matter again.
Soon he was plotting a series of coup attempts led by his ever-loyal sidekick, now-Senator Gringo Honasan. At this time, from my remote prison in his subconscious, I could faintly hear Johnny’s mind whirring—“Why am I not the head of a junta? Cory doesn’t even have an agenda; she’s just letting her conscience get the better of her. I risked everything while she’s only running on her assassinated husband’s memory.” Or something to that effect.
But Johnny eventually gave up, again no thanks to me. An adept strategist, he merely concluded that his gambit was unsustainable due to lack popular support. Besides, US Air Force fighter jets made a couple of threatening swoops against the mutineers, a warning that Washington didn’t think another right-wing regime was kosher at the time.
Neither can I claim credit for his superb performance during the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona. It wasn’t me, it was Corona, who was clearly so petty of values and morally unmoored he was hard to defend. It was quite obvious that the people wanted to kick him out. So with great ease, Johnny demonstrated his legal genius in the service of a popular cause. He had everything to gain, including the perfect timing for the release of his memoir.
Now, Juan Ponce Enrile is enjoying his sunset years, basking in the ambiguousness of his legacy. He’s rich, powerful, and even hailed by some as a heroic but misunderstood figure, thanks to his ingeniously self-ennobling memoir. If I sound bitter, dear reader, I beg for your understanding. I could’ve made him a great Filipino like Lorenzo Tanada or Pepe Diokno, but I failed. Utterly. Completely. Miserably. He’s nearing the conclusion of a long, accomplished life. And I’ve had nothing to do with it.